Guam Museum In Trouble-Again

Remember the Guam Museum? Every couple years the deplorable state of the museum makes the rounds with the local media. Every couple years people are shocked at the conditions and the lack of funding. Well, it’s time again for a round of stories. KUAM’s got a story, so does the PDN. The angle this time is how the ancestral landowners are evicting the museum from a decommissioned barracks at Tiyan unless they come up with $54,000. Of course this is happening at the same time the Attorney General is getting his butt tossed out of the courthouse, so it makes for a good story. It certainly highlights the failings of GovGuam, despite the governor’s assertion that everything is just rosy.

Guam Museum faces eviction, too
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Variety News Staff
IT looks like the Attorney General’s office has a company in misery – the Guam Museum – which would be homeless soon unless it gets money either for rent payment or for relocation cost.

Anthropologists and archaeologists are appealing to the government to help the Guam Museum rescue the artifacts and other historical items that are stored in a Tiyan building, which currently houses the museum’s administration office and storage facility.

The Guam Museum has been holding office rent-free at an old barracks in Tiyan since 1996, when the US government turned over to the Guam government the property previously used by the US Navy. In December 2003, the Department of Ancestral Lands returned the properties to the original landowners.

The deed of the property being occupied by the Guam Museum is under the name of Francisco Santos Camacho, whose heirs have notified Museum director Tony Palomo about their intention to re-possess the property.

“For a long time, we never received any notice from anyone or any agency regarding this building. No one told us to move out until we got a letter three weeks ago from a representative of the estate of Francisco Santos Camacho telling us about re-assumption of the property,” Palomo said.

Palomo said the property claimants had informed him that his office owed them rent dues for 13 months, covering the period from the date that they were re-awarded the land deed.

“They were charging us $4,000 a month, which would have a total of $54,000 for the 13-month rent dues that they were trying to collect,” Palomo said.

He said the letter “doesn’t mention anything about eviction, but I’m sure that if we don’t pay the rent, that’s where it will lead.”

The Museum gets a share of less than $3,000 from the Department of Chamorro Lands’ $800,000 annual budget. It doesn’t have appropriated funds for rent since the Museum has not been made to pay the rent. It doesn’t even have enough budget to hire a curator, Palomo said. He said the museum has employees and assistants who do not have technical expertise in maintaining a museum.

Dr. Rosalinda Hunter-Anderson, an archaeologist and senior partner at Micronesian Archaeological Research Services, laments the current condition of the historical artifacts at the storage facility, which is not even properly air-conditioned.

“We deposit artifacts at the museum but they are not taking care of them,” Hunter-Anderson said. “They are perishable materials.”

She also laments the lack of professional staff who have expertise in museum work. “So it’s a double negative,” Hunter-Anderson said. “This is an embarrassment for Guam. CNMI has a lovely museum. They have a system for sectioning. They have a curator. Guam doesn’t have any of that.”

She added that “it’s about time our politicians, who just give lip service to respecting the culture, step up and do something.”

Dr. Gary Heathcote of the University of Guam’s Anthropology Resource and Research Center said he has asked the private sector to assist the Museum in resolving what “seems like a crisis situation.” Heathcote had asked UOG to accommodate the Museum be he said university could not find a space there either.

He suggested the vacant Hakubotan Building near the ITC Building in Tamuning could be a good relocation site. “That’s a big building that’s been empty. I don’t know what their plans are for that building and it would be a fine thing if we can step in temporarily,” Heathcote said.

Palomo said he has requested the Attorney General’s Office to review the estate heir’s claim. Attorney General Douglas Moylan said Assistant Attorney General has received the request for legal opinion, but is not likely to attend to it anytime soon due to the office space crisis that his own office is dealing with.

Palomo said he is banking on the help of the Department of Public Works, which he said has began scouting for a relocation site for the Museum. Museum employees have begun boxing up some of the items in preparation for the possible eviction.
–Marianas Variety, Friday February 25, 2005

Basically the museum is treated like the red-headed step child of GovGuam. The Hakubotan Building mentioned in the article was occupied by some GovGuam agency for a couple years when plenty of government own property was available – one of those sweetheart deals that everybody forgets so quickly. Kind of like how the governor relocated his staff into the PDN building and got FEMA to foot the bill for a year. Hell, the Attorney General got $250,000 this weekend to move into government offices at Adelup. With the government of Guam it is a question of whoever screams the loudest gets the quick fix of cash. It seems like there is a systemic inability to forecast, budget and plan within GovGuam. Everything is allowed to decay into a state of crisis, some emergency funds are thrown at the problem to make it go away and then things start collapsing again.

3 thoughts on “Guam Museum In Trouble-Again

  1. Thomas

    On Thursday, Gary Heathcote joined the fray and his letter to the editor of the PDN was published.

    Leaders Need to Take Action and Create a Cultural Center:

    By executive order, the governor declared the year 2005 to be “Åñon Fino’ Chamorro yan Kottura: Inina, Deskubri yan Setbisio” — “The year of the Chamorro Language and Culture: Enlightenment, Discovery and Service.”

    What better time than now to start taking serious, informed steps in the direction of creating the kind of museum and cultural center that would do Guam proud?

    Prior to the last election, I polled the senatorial hopefuls on their positions and ideas about promoting, preserving and educating the public and tourists alike about Guam’s rich and distinctive history and cultures. It was heartening to receive replies and read thoughtful, published responses on these issues from a number of candidates, including even a few who won. I was particularly interested in what the candidates had to say about fund-raising, since securing property; building infrastructure; designing and building needed facilities; hiring needed museum professionals, scholars, masters of the arts, cultural traditions and oral history; and training needed para-professional staff will be — of course — quite expensive.

    The most substantive responses came from Sen. Larry Kasperbauer and former Speaker Ben Pangelinan.

    I learned that Kasperbauer had previously proposed that Japan and the United States jointly build a cultural center and museum for the people of Guam to, in part, “resolve the issue of war-time ill-treatment of our people.” Who shot that down?

    Pangelinan informed me that he was working on a proposal to “charter an NGO (non-government organization) to receive donations from state governments such as Spain, Mexico, Japan, etc., to assist in the financing.” In addition, Pangelinan advocated “setting aside a portion of the Tourist Attraction Fund” to fund the construction of new facilities.

    I was hoping that, in the last days of the previous Legislature, a bill might be introduced and passed that would incorporate some or all of the above ideas into it. This did not happen. Is any such bill being developed in the current Legislature, in this Åñon Fino’ Chamorro yan Kottura?

    I thought, perhaps naïvely, that the pre-election pledges and responses from the candidates were a good sign, as my short memory does not recall a recent election where so many candidates articulated views on preserving and promoting Guam’s cultural and historical heritage.

    Further, where does the governor stand on this subject? What is his plan? I hope and trust that the good governor and senators who feel passionately about the value and worth of Guam’s cultural and historical legacies will very soon work together and couple actions to their words.

    I can think of no better legacy that they could leave to the people of Guam, during their time in office … short of “fixing” GMH, of course.

    Gary Heathcote is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Guam and a resident of Yona.

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